Los Angeles

Officials Urge Residents to Be ‘Aware and Prepare'

Time is critical when it comes to natural disasters. The NBC4 I-Team has been looking at how much advanced notice residents had in the areas of the deadly mudslides in Montecito and the debris flows closer to home.

The first evacuation alerts for areas of the Thomas Fire came on Sunday. Those in mandatory evacuation areas asked to leave no later than noon on Monday, about a day before the storm.

The California Office of Emergency Services can send emergency alerts electronically through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. The system is run by the federal government but local emergency officials manage and send geographically-targeted text messages notifying residents about fire evacuation orders. In order to get these alerts, users must have a WEA-capable phone and Emergency Alerts turned on in their phone's settings. 

Santa Barbara County officials used opt-in systems, Nixle and "Aware and Prepare," to send out messages. The latter emphasizes, "If we can't reach you, we can't alert you."

As of Wednesday, around 40,000 people are signed up for each of those systems, just 9 percent of the County's population.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, the LA Emergency Management Department says only 5 percent of city residents have opted into the city's "NotifyLA." These alerts detailed evacuation warnings for the La Tuna Canyon burn area two different times on Tuesday.

Here's where to go and how to sign up for alerts for Santa Barbara County. Here's more information about the NotifyLA system. A full list of available resources by county is available here.

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